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Euthanization request in will
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Member Question: A clienrecently passed away, and according to the executor of the estate, had verballrequested her young, healthy cat be euthanized, cremated and buried with herWhile I know I could decline the euthanasia and give the dog to the caretaker to be euthanized by another veterinarian, dont want to do that.


I know animals are considered property, yet if an animal is abused by the owner they can be seized. Im trying tfigure out what to do.

NYSVMS Legal Counsel: It is true that animals are considered property, and that an owner may request that an animal be euthanized even if there is no compelling medical reason for the euthanasia. Euthanasia is not considered animal cruelty, provided iis performed in accordance with the AVMAs guidelines on humane euthanasia. However, a veterinarian who objects ta euthanasia request from an owner is not obligated to perform the euthanasia; in such cases the veterinarian irequired to return the animal to the owner (or owners agent).

The request from a deceased owner (either in a will or in other instructions from the decedent) that their pet be euthanized and cremated in order tbe buried with them often presents a difficult situation for the animals veterinarian. Veterinarians who do not wisto euthanize a pet under these circumstances can discuss the issue with the deceased owners representative or executor, anexplain their reasons for not wanting to euthanize the animal.


On several occasions, courts in other states have considered whether the direction in a will that an animal be euthanized must be followed, and have almost universally directed that this type of provision in a will should not be followed. The arguments that have been used in these cases may help a veterinarian resolve this issue with the deceased owners representative or executorWhere this request or provision in a will has been challenged, the courts have looked at a number of factors, includinthe reasons behind the owners decision to direct that the animal be euthanized. In the case oan older animal, or an animal that was ill, and is probably unable to be successfully placed in another home, a court may uphold the provision. However, in cases where there is nclear reason for the owner to direct the euthanasia, or the reason was capricious, the court will typically direct that the will provision should not be followed. An important factor that has persuaded courts to overturn this provision in a will is whether a new home is likely to be found for the animal. Iit can, a court is likely to direct that the will provision directing the euthanasia of the animal should not be enforced.

Although I have not found a case where the owner wanted the animal killed simply so it could be buried with him or her, I think a court would consider such a request to be capricious. I would also note that it is not legal in New York State for an animals remains or cremains to be buried in a human cemeteryeven when the remains/cremainare enclosed in a human coffin.


Veterinarians faced with elderly clients who are concerned about the fate of their pets upon their own death should encouragthose clients to make provisions for the care of their animals after their death. New York authorizes the creation of a pet trust within a will, allowing an owner to set aside an amount of money for the care of their pet(s) after their death. Typically the pet owners are encouraged to designate in their will a person who will agree to take care of the animals with the sum of money set asidfor that purpose. Any attorney preparing a will can assist client in drafting a testamentary pet trust as part of the will.

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